Alvarez, Lagman say divorce bill to ‘strengthen’ family protection provision in 1987 Charter

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, seen in combo photo with Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman. The two lawmakers are both pushing the campaign to institute divorce in the country. iNTERAKSYON COMBO PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines – The proposed divorce and dissolution of marriage bill will not violate the provision on family protection in the 1987 Constitution but will in fact strengthen it, according to the two principal authors of the proposed measure.

In a radio interview on Thursday, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said the bill would serve as both a reminder and a warning to spouses to stick to their marital vows or their partners would have the legal option to get out of marriage.

“In fact this will strengthen ‘yong marriage dahil nga alam ng both parties na kung hindi ka umayos, hindi ba, nandiyan palagi ‘yong possibility…’yong tsansa na hiwalayan ka noong spouse mo. So it will really strengthen your marriage, kasi mag-iingat ka na kung mahal mo talaga ‘yong tao,” he said.

Meanwhile, in a statement, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said, “Divorce is an exception for irremediably broken and lost marriages, and the State has a continuing mandate to protect and preserve marriage as a social institution and foundation of the family.”

He cited the following provisions in the divorce bill that affirm the commitment of the government to safeguard marriage:

1. One of the guiding principles is the State’s “role of strengthening marriage and family life by undertaking relevant pre-nuptial and post matrimonial programs and activities”;

2. A mandatory six-month cooling off period is prescribed after a petition for divorce is filed as a “final attempt of reconciling the concerned spouses”, except in summary judicial proceedings;

3. Reconciliation upon agreement of the spouses is recognized and effectuated even after a petition for absolute divorce has been filed or a divorce decree has been issued.

Alvarez said the “Absolute Divorce and Dissolution of Marriage Bill” would not be costly and would offer a faster way for the spouses to part ways when it is proven in court that their marriage could no longer be saved..

Public hearings conducted for the bill showed that overseas Filipino workers are burdened by the expensive cost of litigation and the many years it would take before their marriages are annulled.

“Hindi naman nila mahiwalayan dahil napakahirap nga. Isipin mo, uuwi sila dito, maghahanap ng abugado, kulang pa daw naman ‘yong pambayad sa abugado ‘yong kinikita nila [They can’t get separated from their spouses because it’s difficult to do so. Think of it, they would go home and find a lawyer for their annulment case despite the fact that their income is not enough for the legal expenses] ,” Alvarez said.

Under the bill, among the grounds for divorce are when the spouses are living separately for at least five years, if they have differences that are irreconcilable, and if there is sexual infidelity in their relationship.

The bill would also provide for alimony or financial support for the children of divorced parents.

Yong alimony, puwede mong monthly installment or puwedeng lump sum [The alimony could be given via installment or in lump sump],” the Speaker said.

Lagman said the divorce bill “is an apt sequel to the Reproductive Health and Responsible Parenthood Law.”

Lagman, who chaired the technical working group that consolidated four related bills on divorce, was also the principal author and sponsor of the RH bill.

“The sister measures are pro-woman legislations since the RH law guarantees a woman’s right to freely determine the number and spacing of her children and mitigates maternal death, while a divorce law liberates a wife from an abusive relationship and helps her regain dignity and self-respect,” he said.

“The full implementation of the RH law will help prevent teenage pregnancies and hasty early marriages that veritably break down and end up in broken marriages,” Lagman added.